Blasts of red, a scorched skyline, buildings alight. The yellow flashes of hope that are blinking through the air are washed out completely by the crimson of the sky. A terrifying creature storms through the village, not as a force of nature, but vicious and sadistic in its actions.
A group of men and women wait patiently as the nearly inevitable doom comes rushing towards them. The man at the front of the pack is garbed in grey battle armor, despite his powerful stance, the threat in front of them makes him seem completely insignificant in the cosmic scale of things.
The large creature strikes, it's nine tails serving to impose itself even more over the shinobi at its feet. The claws of the Fox glimmer in the night, as the hand comes crashing down towards the group, intent to kill visible in its shimmering red-tinted eyes, only for the attack to be deflect, pulsating waves of chakra weaving through the air.
"Lord Hiruzen, we can't hold it for much longer!" A woman says, eyes clinching as she tries to divert her focus to keeping the barrier up, hands and legs resting on the ragged concrete surface of the building.
Her terror opened up a faucets worth of fearful speeches to come tumbling out of the small army that had amassed around Hiruzen.
"Lord Hiruzen, please, let us retreat!"
"Lord Hiruzen, where's the fourth?"
"Lord Hiruzen, be reasonable and run!"
"Just hold!" Hiruzen yelled back, his angry tone doing little to break his steely concertation on the fox.
Speaking of which, the beasts paw slashes at the barrier once again, this time sending small, glass-like fragments of chakra flying off into the sky, refracting the hell storm skies. The beams of light dart through the forests and soar up to an overhanging hill, where they hit the sharp stone of something not quite visible in the nighttime daze.
"Wow, look look, it's so pretty!" A high-pitched voice screams out in sadistic pleasure, as he enjoys the light show that had come at the expense of hundreds of human lives.
The foxes claw comes crashing down again. This time it takes the barrier down, much to the man on the hills joy.
"What do we do Lord Hiruzen?!" A panicked voice yells out back on the building tops.
"I said HOLD!" Hiruzen yells back, as he prepares himself for the oncoming assault from the demon.
The boney body of the Kyubi lurches, pushing all its weight back against the dirt, before it leapt at the party below, flickers of black energy coursed into its mouth as it prepared to attack.
Hiruzen stood his ground, eyes only slanting more in concentration.
The fox's eyes on the other hand lit up in cruel glee, as it came crashing towards the group, the collective's hearts stopping as they saw the monster descending on them, having to make the snap realization that it may be the last thing they ever saw.
The Kyubi breathed in, eyes widening even more…
Dust sputtered up as a small boy rolled through the dirt laden streets of the village, his shadow casting waves over the sunlit pathways.
"Naruto Uzumaki, you have committed treason of the highest order, get back here at once!" An older man, clad in a green vest yelled out, doing nothing bar the bare-minimum to stop the boys escape.
Naruto darted around a corner, a mischievous smile plastered on his face, as he weaved through the streets of the village, the chunin chasing him hot on his tail.
Gradually getting closer to the sounds of cheers and chatter, he followed the scent, turning into what appeared to be a farmer's market, as small but colorful booths lined the streets.
Much to the dismay of everyone in attendance, Naruto ducked through the stalls, running on the counters and jumping from one to another, destroying some of the farmers wares in the process.
Realizing that his trailers would be entering the market-place now, the blonde threw himself towards the bottom of the next booth, sliding through the curtains that decorated its lower half, snatching a rice ball along the way (which caused an avalanche of words Naruto knew only adults could use to come bellowing out of the clerk)
Like a cat, Naruto pounced outwards, curtains blowing in his wake, as he left a collage of jam footprints over the dirt-way, almost giving his pursuers an essential paper trail to find him.
The sound of his feet tapping against the sidewalks, was quickly joined by two more, as the two older men began to gain on him.
"Naruto, stop!" One of them yelled to no avail, as Naruto just continued to run, making a beeline for a side-alley way. Realizing that this backstreet ended in a complete dead end, they smirked, kunais drawn, as they prepared to corner the boy.
With two completely unnecessary combat rolls, they burst out into concrete passage, pointing their knives at…
Instead of Naruto himself, the two were met with more jam stains coating the floor and walls, and a copious amount of broken piping strewn across the floor and to the side of the buildings making up the alley, the only reasonable explanation being that Naruto had sloppily made his way up onto the rooftops.
"Should we go after him?"
"Man, we don't get paid enough for this. We lost him, end of story."
The two lazily nodded their heads in agreement, and began to walk away, strolling through the proverbial walk of shame that would end with them creating some bullshit excuse as to why they couldn't catch a thirteen-year-old.
Meanwhile, the same rush of energy that had been prevalent through the streets started to slow down, as Naruto, smile still stained on his face, sat down on the edge of a building, admiring his Hokage rock was a famous monument, a hulking mountain of stone that had been chiseled with the faces of the four Hokage, making sure the ones who once ruled over the village could still do so through spirit.
Naruto had drawn penises, swirls, goatees and mustaches all over it.
"Haha, I got 'em good this time!" Naruto praised himself, pumping his fist in the air triumphantly.
"Got who?" The sudden appearance of a voice to his back sent Naruto screaming in terror, turning around to see-
"Iruka-sensei?! Don't be scaring me like that!" He said, voice slowly calming down as he realized he hadn't been confronted by a stranger, just his teacher, although seeing the calculated look in Iruka's eyes, Naruto wished maybe it had been some random citizen.
"Sorry, but I could help but notice that…ya' know…" Iruka pointed a tan finger at the monument in front of him, digits motioning to the paint job that was covering it. "…Do you know who did it Naruto?"
Naruto blinked a couple times, "casually" moving his paint stained hand to his pocket and twisting his face up.
"Really?" Iruka wasn't buying it, as his finger moved from motioning to the Hokage Rock to poking Naruto's cheek. "What's this then?"
The younger boys' eyes darted to the spot on his face, where he realized there was a very visible splash of red tinging his skin.
"On your cheek?"
"I was tonging it out of the jar. You know me Iruka-Sensei, always a slob." Naruto tried to play it off jokingly, but the fragility in his tone was obvious.
"Alright then." Iruka began to turn away, only to stop suddenly on his heel. "Also, right under the Fourth Hokages face is "Written by Naruto Uzumaki" in big bold writing, mind telling me who did that?"
Silence overtook Naruto, his brain working overtime to try and make an excuse that made any sense.
"…There could be two people with the same name, you don't know."
"I'll see you after class, WHICH STARTS IN 10 MINUTES!" Irukas voice boomed out like a shockwave, sending Naruto scampering to make it to the Academy in time. After what felt like years of nonstop running, he rushed into the building on shaky legs, nearly collapsing on his desk, much to the annoyance of some of his classmates.
"Look what the cat dragged in." A blonde girl whispered, audibly enough so that everyone heard it, but quiet enough that Naruto would look like a moron if he said anything back.
Naruto quickly killed the uncontrollable frown that spread across his face, "cooly" leaning back on his chair, as the sound of footsteps filled the hallway, marking Irukas appearance.
"Hey everyone." He said, walking into the hardwood room.
"Hello Iruka-Sensei" The classroom echoed back.
"I hope you've been practicing, because today's, as all of you probably know, your final practice exam before becoming Genin, which, assuming we don't have any changes in schedule, should be tomorrow."
And just like that, the proverbial bomb was dropped on Naruto.
He processed the words, but something didn't click. His eyes glossed over, his mouth started to lull, overall his brain just shut down.
The next thing he knew, he was standing in line, waiting to display his clone jutsu.
My worst jutsu is the one we need to pass, just my luck. He thought with apathy and frustration so intense that even his inner-speak came out as a groan.
"Sakura, get on up here." Iruka said, with a relaxed tone, prompting a pink haired girl from the front of the class to walk down the aisle, her posture somehow supremely confident and extremely nervous at the same time.
The teacher marked a few lines on his notepad, before giving a small "go-ahead" hand gesture to Sakura.
She quickly matched her hands together in various different combinations, locking her fingers together, until -
A second Sakura appeared in front of her, smoke radiating from its feet, staying stationary for a few seconds, before smoke overtook its spot once again, the clone disappearing.
"Great work." Iruka said with a sunny smile, getting only a nod from the girl in response.
"Thank you, sensei." She politely said, turning around to walk back to her desk. The words echoed around her subconscious, before a flash of white brought forth a cartoonish version of herself.
YES! SAKURA YOU DID IT! NEXT STOP GENIN EXAM, NEXT NEXT STOP GREATEST KUNOICHI IN THE WORLD BABY!
The significantly more outgoing voice yelled to herself, as Sakura just stood on the steps, not moving.
"…You can sit down now Sakura." Iruka brought her crashing back to reality, causing the girl to jolt in surprise.
"Oh, yeah, Sorry!" She quickly stammered before she moved back to her desk, eyes slanting downcast to her hands to avoid any looks of shame she might be getting.
"Next up is…Sasuke." The voice from the front of the class beckoned a boy with spiked black hair and a navy-blue collared shirt up to the front of the class.
Naruto felt himself throw up in his mouth. He didn't hate Sasuke, but he hated a lot of things about Sasuke. The way everyone thought he was socool, his stupid gelled hair, his stupid little "tsk" he did whenever Naruto did something stupid, and most of all, his shit-head "hands in my pockets" walk. Why did he put his hands in his pockets? It wasn't even cold, just leave your hands out asshole.
Before anyone could even react, Sasuke's hands had already turned into a blur, the clone emerging in the same cloud of smoke as Sakuras and disappearing just as quickly.
"Good job." Iruka said, Sasuke replying with some indiscernible mumble as he returned to his seat.
As Irukas finger traced the paper, looking for the next name, only to sigh as it touched the ink.
"Naruto, you're up." Iruka reluctantly said, causing Naruto to take a stroll up to the front of the room.
The blonde started to throw together hand signs but Iruka quickly noticed that these were not the ones of the clone jutsu, instead, they were something else entirely
"What are you- "His attempt to shut down the boy's antics came too late, as Naruto himself exploded into smoke, the screen eventually clearing to reveal…
A more mature, female Naruto, completely naked, only being obscured by thin ropes of smoke over her. With the same mischievous glint in her eyes as usual, she blew a kiss to Iruka, the emotional weight of it sailing through the air and hitting him.
The pink of the kiss slowly faded into a red line down his nose, Irukas thoughts going completely and utterly blank…
"NARUTO, IS THIS SOME SORT OF SICK JOKE?!" His voice imploded through the room, the sheer force of his anger sending Naruto back to his normal (clothed) form, laughing as he dropped to the floor.
"Ha! That's my sexy jutsu! Pretty funny right?"
"NO! Go to the Mizuki's office at once!" Iruka barked, the very mention of the location causing Naruto to drop his signature smile and lurk off, footsteps heavy on the wooden floor.
An uncontrollable sigh escaped Iruka when the boy was out of ear shot, his hand being placed over his eyes in frustration. When was he going to learn?
"Back so soon Naruto?" Mizukui's asked, subtle annoyance radiating from his voice, as the bell of the guidance counselor's office rang.
Naruto slumped himself in the far chair, slightly tilting his head away from the silver haired man in response.
"…Please express yourself Naruto."
"Alright, so I played this hilarious prank on Iruka-Sensei, where I transformed into a girl…" Naruto started, needing a ridiculously little amount of push from his counselor. "But then he got, like, super mad about it and sent me over here."
"Was anyone laughing at this joke?" Mizukui's eyes began to pierce the boy in front of him's very foundations. Narutos eyes widened for a second before they shifted back to normal.
"I wasn't really listening, but it was pretty funny, so I'm sure they were." He lied.
"And what drove you to pull this prank."
"I hadn't studied for my exams, and I got really stressed and…"
"Say no more, take the rest of the day off." Mizuki suddenly said, cutting off Narutos talking points and turning his tones previous annoyance into kindness.
"When I was your age, the same thing happened to me. I forgot to study the body flicker before the big exam. It was some sort of divine intervention that I passed." His mouth smoothed out into a small smile.
"If you have to miss a few hours of school to become a genin, who cares?"
The words took a few seconds for Naruto to process, before his cheerful energy resumed and he bolted out of his seat.
"Thanksmizuki-senseiI'mgonnabecomethebestgennineverDATTEBAYO!" He tried to cram too many words into a sentence as he bolted out of the room, clearing the papers of Mizukis desk like a bolt of static electricity.
Time ticked down on the clock.
"Clone jutsu!" He brightly yelled, leading to the appearance of smoke and the conjuration of…a Naruto who looked like he'd drowned five years ago. "Damn it."
"Ram, snake, wait, what?" Naruto confused himself, snapping his hand seals the wrong way, which lead to chakra erupting from his hands and sending him flying back against a tree.
"Clone jutsu!" The Naruto that was summoned started to take form, much to its creators' pleasure…only for it to come out completely flat.
"Come on!" Naruto yelled, stomping out the floormat of a clone, before abruptly stopping, realizing it may be sentient.
"…Can you hear me?"
There was no response.
Narutos boots once again began to stomp.
Iruka made his way up to the already set up scaffolding of the Hokage rock, bucket of water in hand, expecting to see Naruto sitting there, grumbling to himself.
Instead, he found a note pinned onto the second Hokages chin that read:
"Deer Iruka-Sensay, I need 2 train my clone jutsu so I can't scrub off the (A word that was meant to be graffiti but may as well have been scribbles) tonight, I'll do it tomorrow, thank u
The first thought that popped into Irukas head was that Naruto better ace his clone test, because he was not passing the written exam.
As he folded up the note and placed it into his pocket, Iruka took a few minutes to admire Narutos handiwork, only to realize something very…interesting.
For the first three faces, Naruto had jotted out things that were either crude or humorous. A penis drawn on The First's forehead, Bags under The Second's eyes, a line that turned The Third's neutral expression into an uncanny smile, lighthearted jokes of that nature, but when you looked at the fourth the story changed.
Text reading "Gone in a yellow flash!" and "Only 18 Months?!" were prominent on his facial features. The paint splashed over him was rough and aggressive, especially in comparison to the others on the monument.
Iruka raised a hand to his chin, deep in thought.
"Clone jutsu!" For once, blue aura started to spin around Naruto, engulfing him in a layer of pure energy. He felt the rush of power start to instill in him for the first time in…his whole life, maybe. It was almost like he was running on a high, this surge of energy was…
"Wait, this isn't the clone jutsu!"
His lack of concentration caused all that euphoria to be transferred into pain, as the chakra aura imploded on him, the force of impact sending him flying up into the air, before he hit the grassy ground hard.
"Clone…jutsu…" Naruto stammered, heavy limbs and aching bones barley letting him thrust up his hands to go through the signals. Desperately, he went through his hand signs, trying, hoping for something to appear in front of him…
There was no smoke, no aura, nothing.
"cwone…jusu'…ZZZZZZZZZZZ!" Naruto was out like a light bulb, overuse of chakra leaving him collapsed and drooling on the ground. Even in his very subconscious though, something kept…ringing. Louder and louder it got, the young boy tossing and turning in his sleep to try and somehow shake it off.
The ceremonial bells of the Gennin graduation came reverberating through the air, each ring crushing Naruto worse than the last.
Back and forth he swung on the wooden swing to the back of the Academy. Normally Naruto would try and aim for the clouds, but as of right now, he was content to let his feet scrape the dirt.
He didn't pass.
"Dad, can we go get something to eat, I'm starving." A black-haired boy said to his father lazily, as they passed the swing set with not even a look in Narutos direction.
"Once your mum gets off work, we'll go get whatever you want. Lest I can do for my boy becoming a ninja!" The goateed man threw a hand around his son, proudly clutching him close.
"Aw jeez, get off me. You guys are such a drag…"
If either of them had been listening closer, they would've heard the sound of wood creaking and footsteps taking off.
Naruto dashed through the skyline desperately trying to keep any tears in, as he leapt from building to building with no rhyme or reason. He didn't know where he was running to, he just wanted to try and clear his mind.
A voice came piercing through the cool morning air.
The voice rang out again, prompting the whiskerd-boy to slow down, the leather of his sandals burning on the concrete rooftop.
Silver hair drifted into sight, as Mizuki met the younger boy on the ridge, his appearance temporarily stunning Naruto in place.
"You failed huh?"
"Yeah." Naruto replied, trying (and failing) to make it appear as if he couldn't care less.
"Did you work hard?" Mizuki asked him sternly, which immediately brought Narutos emotions bubbling up.
"I did Mizuki-Sensei! I really tried, but I couldn't summon even a single clone!" He yelled grinding his foot into the sharp stone of the rooftop.
"I think I have something that could help you." The older man said, crouching down to Narutos height.
"What? What?!" Naruto's eyes childishly widened as his teacher bestowed a shining ray of hope upon him.
"Well, it's a secret, so you better not tell anyone else…" Mizuki moved his mouth to the eager Narutos ear, ready to divulge the information that would turn his whole life around.
"NO, PUT ME DOWN, I WANT TO BE WITH MY MOTHER AND FATHER!" A young boy with a scarred nose screamed, as he was desperately clutched to the chunin vest of a running individual
"We have to run; you'll die out there Iruka!" The ninja said back, using all his power to try and get as far away from the monolith behind him as he could.
Iruka couldn't quite make out what he saw in the approaching smog. Flashes of red demonic eyes pierced through the purple haze, hauntingly harrowing in it's gazes. Occasionally, glimpses of yellow appeared to pierce the smokescreen, putting on what would be a dazzling display of color if the stakes weren't so high
"MUM! DAD!" Iruka screamed once more in futility. Closing his eyes and breathing in, he prepared to let out another shriek of terror.
The light filled his vision again. Any chaotic red had been replaced with the amber-tinged cape of sunset descending on the village.
He was ten years older.
Kicking himself for reminiscing on old memories, Iruka began to come to his senses, rubbing a finger over his scar stained nose.
It was 5 in the afternoon, where was Naruto? For everything wrong about the boy, he wasn't lazy.
The last time he'd seen him was when he failed the exam. Iruka reasoned that maybe that had disheartened him, but it didn't even seem like Naruto had any motivation or goal to pass in the first place, so why would this be such a blow…
"Iruka! Iruka!" Mizukis voice came blaring through the sky, the silver-haired man's psychical form struggling to keep up with his booming voice, worry coating his tone.
"What?" Iruka responded, as Mizuki finally landed next to him, panting.
"It's Naruto. He's made off with one of the sacred scrolls."
"…Do you mean- "Irukas eyes widened in terror as he realized the implications this might have.
"We don't know, just get down to the hokage residence, quick!" He yelled, rushing off again towards the direction of the oval building.
The next few minutes were a blur in Irukas mind, blocking out everything around him as he body-flickered towards the place of meeting. It was not until his feet finally hit the dusty dirt floor of the ninja assembly room, that Iruka realized where he was.
"This is an outrage! Who was guarding the scroll?!" One of the many ranked ninjas packed into the small space yelled.
"It was probably Taiga, that's why they were able to steal it!"
"Knock it off, you guys know I have bowl problems!" The man who was presumably Taiga shouted back.
"You bring a magazine and snacks into the bathroom with you every time. It's not a fucking cross-continent expedition."
"That's enough" A powerful voice said, sucking any and all noise out of the area like a vacuum to dust despite barley breaking the decibel range needed to be considered more than a whisper.
The third hokage entered the room, draped in his formal white and red robes, with his head obscured by hat and cloth.
"We have confirmed that the scroll the Naruto has taken was not the scroll of the six paths."
A wave of relief audibly washed over every ninja in attendance of the speech.
"Although, if he has any scroll at all, it's a potential danger to himself. Please track him down at once." Hiruzen said, authority in his voice clear, although being slightly undermined by the undercurrent of "it's 2 hours past my bedtime" that rippled through his inflection.
"Okay, Mizuki let's go…" Iruka said, preparing to body flicker away from the scene. "Mizuki?"
There was no one there.
Deep in a forest clearing, yelling was clearly heard.
"Yes! Yesyesyesyesyesyes!" Naruto announced, thrusting his hands up in the air in victory while the scroll sprawled onto the ground. The boy crouched down in exhaustion, taking time to recuperate his stamina, although any lack of energy was non-phasing to the high Naruto was on now.
"Wow, what have you been up to…" Mizukis voice suddenly echoed from the tree tops, the man himself appearing in a burst of wind.
"Mizuki-sensei!" Naruto bellowed from bellow; eyes characteristically wide in excitement. "I did it! I mastered the super-powerful technique! Do you reckon Iruka-sensei'll pass me now?!"
"That's quite a feat, Naruto." The silver haired mans locks reflected the moonlight as he made his way down from the tops of the trees. Despite his vocal exactment, his eyes slanted…sinisterly.
Naruto caught on to the plot quicker than the chunnin in front of him expected. He'd seen that look in people's eyes before. His feet began to move, but it was to late as Mizukis hand moved towards the boy's head, fingers grazing the green metal of Naruto's googles.
"Seven sealings jutsu."
Smoke overtook Narutos vision, clouding every sense, as he felt his arms and body become constrained, tight unidentifiable material constricting him against what felt like a tree.
When everything cleared, he saw Mizuki standing before him holding a kunai, the knife glimmering in the nighttime bloom.
"M-Mizuki-sensei, why the hell are you doing this?!" Naruto asked shakily, arms burning as he struggled from the constraints.
The man seemingly ignored his pleas, as the knife he was brandishing blurred, moving through the sky, ready to completely end Naruto.
The knife approached his face at startling speed, Narutos eyes only getting wider the closer the steel got to deforming him.
The sound of the steel cutting through wind zipped through the air, as Naruto braced in terror for the cut…
The steel stopped, not even a millimeter away from his eye.
"Well, I guess it's a little less satisfactory if I don't tell you." Mizuki said, pure smugness radiating from his voice. He hilted the kunai and began to talk. "Naruto, have you ever wondered why the people of the village ignore you? Why they seemingly look past your every action, completely content on ignoring everything about you?"
Naruto was too stunned to talk, only managing a small nod.
"Thirteen years ago, the nine-tailed fox attacked the leaf village. It was an unrivaled tragedy; thousands were killed as a result of that beast." His voice hitched venomously at the mention of the nine tails. "And what stopped it? Like an angel descending from the heavens, out came the Fourth Hokage…"
Mizukis voice had become mixed with a layer of psychotic sarcasm that Naruto hadn't quite heard before.
"He graciously saved us, by sealing the fox away. Where do you think it went?"
Naruto gulped, the already known answer dropping a weight on his shoulders.
"Inside you. That's why I'm going to kill you. For the good of the village, and, hey, the scroll of sealing will be a nice bonus."
"You're a liar." Naruto said back, not even believing it himself.
"Oh, I'm a liar? Iruka lost his parents to the same beast that's currently in you, is he a liar for keeping you around? He must despise you."
The sinking feeling in Narutos stomach rendered him completely unable to speak at this point.
"Oh, you're not talking to me now?! Fine, I've been going too long anyway." Mizuki once again equipped his knife, and thrust it towards Narutos face.
The sound of slicing wind spliced through the air, but it was joined by multiple others.
Naruto felt the tight sensation around him let loss, as three shuriken came flying through the air, slicing the ropes that held Naruto up.
Mizuki's blade slammed into the wood where his targets head used to be, the man recoiling in surprise.
"Naruto, run!" Iruka yelled through the darkness, his voice fading away as Naruto heeded the advice and took off running.
With a snarl, Mizuki followed him, angered by the interruption.
The blonde's spatial awareness was shot, arms and base still aching from the constricting rope. He barley felt the sharp leaves grazing him as he ran through the forest, only focusing on the rapidly approaching humming that blazed towards him.
Leaves sputtered up from the ground as Mizuki appeared beside him, thrusting his knife out and trying to cut Naruto, who had sensed the attack coming, dodging it cleanly, only to clumsily step over his own feet and fall to the ground.
Mizuki lunged towards him, but his knife missed the mark again, Naruto crawling quickly towards the inside of a large log, around double the size of Naruto himself
For around five seconds the wooden tube felt like a sanctuary, Naruto being able to barley see anything as his hands desperately clutched onto the damp wood.
Mizukis foot stamped through the log, splattering the wood around the ground and sending light flooding into Narutos vision once again.
The sense of elevation became apparent to the blonde, as the log was lifted off the ground and thrown against the base of a tree, shattering it completely and leaving Naruto exposed.
With a manic smile adorned on his features, Mizuki began to swing the kunai in his hands, taking a little too much time to pounce on his prey.
His foot lightly connected with something, the sensation blocking his concentration for just a moment. Looking down, Mizuki found his foot had hit what appeared to be a small white ball.
Silence filled the forest.
Mizuki yelled out as a tightly contained batch of smoke was let lose from the ball's insides, coating the forest in a screen of steam, which temporarily blinded Mizukis blood lusted outlook. Reaching downwards, Mizuki blindly felt his hand hit the ground, using his other to cast handsigns.
"Wind release, uprooting tempest!" Mizuki yelled, a circular tornado of wind pushing up and removing any residual smoke. Calculatingly brutal, the mans eyes began to shift around looking for any shred of orange in sight.
From the corner of his eye, he spied an auburn pants leg dashing through the heavily congested trees.
"Got ya!" He said throwing the kunai at the target with extraordinary accuracy, eyes madly widening as he heard the metal pierce flesh. He lunged towards the body, crash tackling Naruto the ground, where he quickly took hold of the younger boy's collar.
Desperate for victory, Mizuki whipped a large, straight-edged fuma-shuriken off his back and prepared to bring it down on Naruto's head.
Smoke surrounded and dispersed around the boy below him, revealing Iruka sat in Naruto's place.
"Ah, what?! A transformation?!" Mizuki set the smirking man before him down, before he pushed himself back onto his feet. "Iruka, what the hell do you think your doing?!"
"I'm not just going to let you kill one of my students Mizuki."
"Why the hell not. That kids a ticking clock, it's best to get rid of him now!"
Throughout all of this, the real Naruto had stationed himself behind a tree, working urgently to try and control his heavy breathing, but becoming caught up in listening to the two older men's conversation.
"You should understand me more than anyone Iruka, that… thing killed your family"
"The nine tails killed my family…not Naruto." Iruka said calmly, despite the fact he could barley feel his leg. "To blame him would be projection, nothing more. He's nothing like the nine-tailed fox, he's Naruto Uzumaki and he's one of a kind."
Silence once again returned to the forest, stunned in Mizukis case, surprised in Narutos.
Iruka-sensei…He thought clutching the scroll even closer to his chest as a way to try and distract his emotions.
"Alright, then…" Mizuki's voice suddenly returned with confidence. "I'll kill you too then. I was already going to take one head tonight; I can live with taking two."
The fuma-shuriken's metal cracked through the trees, as Mizuki brought it up to the sparkling moonlight. Preparing to throw it…
"IRUKA-SENSEI!" Naruto emerged from his hiding spot, rushing towards the two chunnin in front of him.
"Bingo." Mizuki said to himself, smirking as he switched the angle of the shot and threw the shuriken at Naruto, who, as expected, quickly tripped over under just the pressure of the situation.
For the second time that night, Naruto Uzumaki became convinced that he was about to die. The shuriken glided through the air with ease, despite having no features, it almost looked like it wanted to kill the boy.
He closed his eyes and braced.
It never came. He heard the sound of the weapon piercing something, but when he looked up, Iruka was standing over him, shuriken lodged in his back.
"Iruka-sensei? W-what the hell?" Narutos voice was breaking from stress at this point, no matter how confident he tried to make it sound. "WHY THE HELL'D YOU DO THAT?" He screamed, pitch still cracking.
"…Because when I lost my parents, I was just like you…I wanted them to laugh at me…to see me…"
Flashes of Iruka falling into the river, passing notes around class, drawing on the whiteboard all flashed into his mind.
"You can be great Naruto; I believe in you." Iruka said, through pained breaths, eventually giving up on keeping himself on his feet, collapsing next to Naruto.
"Wow, this is melting my heart." Mizuki sneered, looking at both of them with disdain, as Naruto began to lower his head in shame.
…but was it shame?
"You better stop looking at me like that." Narutos previously shaky voice was now…threatening. An underlying wave of dread washed over Mizuki, he and Narutos levels of confidence now swapped.
Red streaks of chakra began to circle around Naruto, causing Mizuki's eyes to widen in temporary shock.
"I said YOU BETTER STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!" Narutos eyes came into clear view, his usual baby blues having shifted to demonically red.
"S-stay back!" Mizuki said, holding out a kunai knife uselessly, the action only serving to provoke Naruto further, as he let out a growl and charged towards his foe.
Mizuki had seen Naruto run before. He was fast. He wasn't this fast.
Before the chunnin could even blink, Naruto was in front of him, leaping up and throwing a punch towards Mizukis face.
The phenomenon of his nose shattering took a few seconds to register in his brain, but once Mizuki felt it, he felt it, as blood poured down his face.
The punch hadn't only stunned him though, as Narutos demonic red eyes widened at what he'd just done, the scarlet quickly being washed away by his regular blue color.
"Woah…I kicked his ass, dattebayo!' The hyperactive blonde exclaimed suddenly feeling very comfortable in the situation.
"You little shit…" Mizuki yelled, getting off the ground and pointing his knife at Naruto, who's confidence refused to fade.
"Come at me dude, I'll totally whip you!" He exclaimed smiling as his hands started to move into signs.
Seeing Naruto doing anything resembling competent ninjutsu was enough of a sight to prompt the banged-up Iruka to sit up from his spot on the ground and watch.
"I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!" Mizuki screamed, as he rushed towards the boy, trying to numb the pain of his shattered nose (and ego) with a full-on assault, only to be greeted by a puff of smoke encasing the battle field.
It cleared out to reveal what had to be at least 60 clones of Naruto strewn over the battlefield, each one looking at him with the same shit-eating grin.
"I am Naruto Uzumaki, future Hokage of the hidden leaf and with my power-*COUGH* "The sound of a deep voice boomed from the ring leader, before it proved too much for his throat to handle and he let out a loud splutter. "…just get him."
Several Naruto duplicates leapt down of their perch and rushed Mizuki, hammering him with punches and kicks. Each one was thrown with some of the worst form Iruka had ever seen in a ninja but when there were 60 of them and one of Mizuki, it didn't matter.
Every shot at Mizuki rang out across the forest clearing, the man in question helpless to the clone stampede that was covering him.
After a long stretch, the clones were manually dispersed, leaving Mizuki curled up in the middle of the paddock, bracing for more attacks that were never going to come, any fists thrown being replaced the tip-tapping of Naruto's sandals.
He looked up for a split second only to be greeted by the real Naruto's fist hitting him in the head hard, the blow powerful enough to knock the traitorous chunnin unconscious, although the attackers focus lay elsewhere.
"Iruka-sensei!" He screamed, running over to his teacher. "Are you ok?!"
"Yeah, I'm fine." Iruka managed to grumble, as he pushed himself up the tree stump he had been slouched against. "It's a minor injury."
"Oh, okay." Naruto said, calming down as it was revealed that any wounds suffered were skin deep at worst.
"You want to get some ramen Naruto?" Iruka asked, despite not being in any state to really go and get some.
Naruto's eyes nevertheless lit up.
"Yep…let me maybe get stitched up first though." Iruka grunted, retrieving a small pocket first aid kit, pulling out a needle and pointing it towards his back.
"Wait, Iruka-sensei, what the hell? What are you doing with-AAAAAAAAH!"
The scent of ramen was like a candy trail for Naruto, who had always reasoned that wherever he was in the village, he could find his way back by following the smell of ichiraku ramen. This also meant it he ever got lost outside the village he was screwed.
Brimming from ear-to-ear, Naruto took a seat at the ichiraku counter along with Iruka.
"Hey there's my favorite customer, what are you feeling like today Naruto?" The jolly man at the counter said, going from the back of the small stand to the front to meet the customers.
"Miso Pork please!" Naruto said back with the same enthusiasm.
"Alright, and you, sir?" The mans attention switched to Iruka who had been temporarily distracted by just how loud Naruto was.
"…Uh, Tonkotsu ramen thank you."
"Alright, I'll have your orders up in a jiffy." The man said, walking to the kitchen to lay out the ingredients with a young girl.
Silence filled the shack, but Naruto was seemingly content to just sit there, waiting for the ramen to be put in front of him so he could immediately scarf it down.
Iruka let out a sigh as it appeared any conversational habits would fall on him.
"Are you going to scrub the paint off the monument soon or…"
"Ah, come on Iruka-sensei! I saved your life just before, have a little sympathy." Naruto crossed his arms and pouted, holding strong…for about ten seconds before he groaned "I'll clean it tomorrow"
Iruka laughed slightly, but couldn't help but keep the question on his mind under wraps.
"Honestly Naruto, why did you even do it in the first place."
Naruto turned to him with a confused look.
"Didn't you hear me before? I'm gonna' become the greatest Hokage! Then everyone in the village is gonna have to stop ignoring me and treat me like I'm somebody! I basically just gave them a heads up."
The older man was taken aback initially, but it started to make sense. This is why he felt so bad about failing the gennin exam. Hokage certainly was a lofty aspiration, no wonder he was working hard.
Iruka debated with himself later that night over if his next actions were emotional or objective but either way, he knew he made the right choice.
"Hey, Naruto, I think I've got something for you…" Iruka said, digging into his jacket and rifling through the pockets, before retrieving…a Konoha standard-issued forehead protector.
He held it up in front of Naruto, the steel plate glimmering through the street-side light.
"Congratulations Naruto Uzumaki, you are now officially a Konoha genin."
Naruto stayed wide-eyed and silent for a few seconds before, emotions not changing, he moved towards Iruka.
"Naruto, what- "
Iruka was cut off by the boy's arms wrapping around him in a hug, happiness at this point literally pouring out of Naruto.
"Thank you Iruka-Sensei." He said, voice low and slow.
"It's okay." Iruka replied softly.
The excitement from the gift enhanced Narutos normal hyperactivity through the rest of the night. Even after the bowls of ramen were being washed, he had gone running off through the skyline, despite Irukas instructions to "get home safe".
Using his immense energy reserve to run up a high-rise chimney (the highest point he could feasibly climb), Naruto stationed himself at the very top of it, extending his arms outwards before letting out a bellowing scream.
"NARUTO UZUMAKIS A GENIN! ARE YOU WATCHING KONOHA?! CAUSE I'M GONNA BE THE GREATEST HOKA- "
His speech was cut off by the sound of a sliding window being opened and an old man poking his head out, angrily.
"Kid, can you keep it down?! I'm trynna' sleep back here!" He yelled upwards at Naruto.
"Okay, sorry." Naruto whispered back, even the chewing out not being enough to take the smile off his face. The window was quickly closed.
"greatest Hokage!" Naruto harshly whispered to literally no one in particular, before dashing off towards his home.